Yadi eyeing first MVP honor after career year
Cardinals catcher looking to add to his Silver Slugger, Gold Glove awards
ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina's hardware collection has already grown considerably this winter with several offensive and defensive honors. Could he be poised to add his first MVP Award, too?
That will largely depend upon how the 30 voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America valued various criteria of value. The winner will be revealed Thursday at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Andrew McCutchen will get a boost from being the centerpiece of the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates, who, without McCutchen, would not have snapped a 20-year playoff drought. He also topped all National League players in WAR. Paul Goldschmidt had the standout power numbers, leading the league in home runs (36), RBIs (126) and slugging percentage (.551).
Molina helped lead the Cardinals back to the postseason and had the best offensive year of his career, but his value is not so easily gleaned through stats or storyline.
Certainly, Molina had a superb offensive season, one in which he set a franchise record for doubles by a catcher (44), ranked fourth in the NL with a .319 batting average, and ranked sixth with his .373 average with runners in scoring position. He ranked in the NL's top seven in multi-hit games (50), three-hit games (14) and four-hit games (four) despite missing time due to a knee injury and playing a position that requires more frequent days off.
Molina's production was all a part of a career season for the 31-year-old catcher, who has transformed himself into a middle-of-the-order threat. He established season-best marks in RBIs (80), runs (68), hits (161), go-ahead RBIs (19) and game-winning RBIs (10). Recently, he was the recipient of a Silver Slugger Award.
Defensively, it was more of the standout same for a player who has established himself as the gold standard of catching. Molina has already won several defensive honors -- including a sixth straight Gold Glove Award -- this winter in recognition for his work behind the plate in 2013.
Molina threw out 43 percent of attempted basestealers and led all NL catchers in games (131) and innings caught (1,115 1/3). He was run on only 46 times, the fewest stolen base attempts against him since 2005.
When it comes to determining Molina's value to the 2013 Cardinals, though, the intangibles should be a significant part of that assessment. Molina was the rudder for a pitching staff that finished with a 3.42 ERA, fifth-lowest in the NL. It was a pitching staff, too, that included contributions from 10 rookies, all of whom depended largely upon Molina to guide them as they gained a familiarity of the competition.
Molina's game calling, his blocking abilities and his method of receiving all helped make those transitions easier. In total, 38 percent of the Cardinals' innings were pitched by rookies. Molina's WAR -- which was seventh-highest in the NL -- does not seem an accurate representation of the impact he had behind the plate.
Should he finish first, Molina would join the company of 13 Cardinals who have been MVPs.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.